BLAST’s primary concern is improving access to justice in Bangladesh for the poor and disadvantaged, and for marginalized communities in particular. To this end, BLAST provides legal aid in the form of advice and legal representation, as well as alternative dispute resolution (ADR). It conducts trainings and workshops with a wide range of actors within the justice system, as well as with the public to spread knowledge of constitutional and legal rights. BLAST also conducts public interest litigation and advocacy campaigns to help shape and implement laws, and to enable the provision of remedies that ensure access to justice.
1.Access To Justice
BLAST’s advocacy campaigns target multiple dimensions of access to justice, including the activation of institutional mechanisms for justice delivery, such as the functioning of the courts, the activation of the National Human Rights Commission, the development, amendment and implementation of laws, and ensuring that alternative dispute resolution is accessible and effective and conducted within the framework of law and with respect for due process and principles of equality and non-discrimination. BLAST works to not only educate the public, but also to hold the Government accountable. To this end, BLAST conducts investigations, writes reports, and holds meetings with members of the Government and the press to advocate for reforms on law and policy or implementation of judgments. BLAST regularly undertakes public interest litigation to further institutional accountability.
As a legal aid service provider, BLAST is especially concerned about access to judicial remedies. In response to a petition filed by BLAST, the High Court ordered the Government of Bangladesh to implement legal provisions for setting up district courts in the three districts of the CHT according to the Chittagong Hill Tracts Regulation Amendment Act, 2003, and to establish Nari-o-Shishu Nirjaton Bishesh Adalat (Suppression of Violence against Women and Children Tribunals) as mandated under the Suppression of Violence against Women and Children Act 2000, as amended in 2003. The establishment of these courts have provided inhabitants of the three hill districts with a more accessible forum for accessing judicial protection with regard to civil and criminal matters, and have provided women and children an important forum for securing remedies in cases of violence; earlier such matters were dealt with by the Deputy Commissioner (DC), an executive official, and appeals were heard in Chittagong, many hours travel from the homes of residents of the three CHT districts. After BLAST obtained a judgment in its favour, the Government established Courts of the District Judge and an Assistant District Judge in all three districts and also enabled the Tribunals to start functioning.
2. Legal Aid
BLAST provides legal advice and representation at all levels of the justice system with an emphasis on providing services to those living in poverty or facing disadvantage or discrimination. Legal services, including mediation, litigation and legal rights training, are provided through BLAST’s head office and nineteen unit offices throughout Bangladesh.
BLAST facilitates alternative dispute resolution (ADR) through mediation for family, land, financial, petty criminal, and labour matters. BLAST has settled over 15,000 disputes across the country since 2003. Resolving disputes through mediation allows individuals and families to quickly recover land, assets, maintenance, dower and/or arrears of wages. The recovered funds are used by clients for many purposes: to earn livelihoods, to begin savings, or to send children to school. By providing mediation services, BLAST has also contributed towards reducing the overwhelming number of cases pending before local courts.
BLAST provides advice and representation for individuals whose disputes cannot resolved through mediation or who have been the victims of criminal offences or human rights violations. The overwhelming number of BLAST’s clients are women living in poverty. BLAST has filed over 35,000 cases since 2003, and the majority of resolved cases have been decided in favor of its clients. BLAST’s litigation services play a crucial role in ensuring access to the justice system for poor and vulnerable people. BLAST also files public interest litigation (PIL) petitions in the Supreme Court of Bangladesh.
BLAST conducts awareness programmes across Bangladesh among the public regarding legal rights and remedies, focusing on courtyard meetings for women. BLAST also conducts training workshops for local community leaders to build legal awareness.
2.4 Gopigagh Legal Aid Clinic
BLAST’s legal aid clinic undertakes awareness activities for Dhaka slum dwellers on laws and Constitutional rights that affect them most. The clinic also provides mediation services. The clinic mediators are well respected by both men and women of the community, and they are able to improve the well-being of community women through mediation.
BLAST has conducted over 175 investigations of human rights violations, including those impacting on women and girls, religious or ethnic minorities and children. Investigations and research studies have allowed BLAST lawyers to support ongoing litigation by BLAST and other organizations and to underpin its advocacy initiatives to address gaps in laws and institutional responses.
3. Access To Justice Through Legal Aid
Legal assist is elemental to amicable as well as authorised justice. Bangladesh is a building approved nation of a universe .in a approved multitude all adults have a right to entrance to probity as well as get satisfactory trail. The constitution of a people commonwealth of Bangladesh 1972 has theoretically ensured entrance to justice, satisfactory trial, sequence of law, elemental rights, tellurian rights, equivalence prior to law, as well as next to insurance of law, though due to monetary predicament as well as stupidity of law, these inherent protections have turn a feign guarantee to a immeasurable infancy of a people.
The third divide of a constitution states which it shall be a elemental target of a state to comprehend by a approved routine a socialist, giveaway from exploitation, multitude in which a sequence of law, elemental tellurian rights as well as freedom, equivalence as well as justice, clever as well as social, will be cumulative for all citizens.
Article twenty-seven of a constitution says which all adults have been next to prior to a law as well as entitled to next to insurance of law. Article fourteen stipulates which it shall be elemental shortcoming of a state to save back sections of a people from all forms of exploitation. Article 31(2) guarantees insurance of law which a adults as well as a residents of Bangladesh have a inalienable right to be treated with colour in suitability with law. Article 35(3) ensures rapid as well as satisfactory trial. Various ubiquitous papers have additionally been framed for a insurance of these rights. Articles 7,8and 10 of a Universal Declaration of Human Rights1948, Article fourteen of a International Covenant upon Civil as well as Political Rights 1966, Articles 6(1) as well as 20(1) of a Commonwealth of Independent States Convention upon Human Rights as well as Fundamental Freedoms1995.Article 9 of a Arab Charter upon Human Rights 1994, Article 3 of a African Charter upon Human as well as People Rights 1981, Article twenty-four of a American Convention upon Human Rights 1978. For a following reasons, all these guarantees turn incomprehensible though upon condition which any authorised assist to a bankrupt persons.
Firstly: In a fit where a single celebration is bad as well as a alternative celebration is opulent, here equality, sequence of law, as well as satisfactory trail, ensured in a constitution as well as alternative constitutions as well as papers of a universe can not be confirmed since a prosperous celebration is means to designate an consultant disciple who can simply take a fruits of a fit in foster of his clients which a conflicting disciple destroy to do.
Secondly: entrance to probity is prevented for a bad by tall authorised costs, here costs embody probity fee, routine fee, disciple fee, as well as alternative immaterial costs.
Thirdly: check in ordering of a polite suit, in a nation for a ordering of a polite fit multiform years have been required, though bad litigants after fighting a single or dual years, remove their each thing as well as destroy to pierce a suit, so a probity explain direct in preference of a clever party.
Fourthly: a large series of people of a nation have been undeveloped as to their rights. So though giving any authorised good they can not safeguard their rights.
In a box of bandhu mukti morcha vs. kinship of India 1984, 3 scc161, a former arch probity of India P.N. Bhagwati observed, where a single of a parties to a lawsuit belongs to a bad as well as subsequent territory of a village as well as does not retain competent socials as well as element resources, he is organisation to be during a waste as opposite a clever as well as absolute opponent.
It is clear which it is required to yield a little turn of authorised assist to persons differently incompetent to means authorised representation. If it is not supposing afterwards it contingency violate a element of equivalence prior to law as well as due routine underneath a sequence of law. So, for ensuring of a equivalence prior to law, due routine of law as well as satisfactory hearing competent authorised assist is elemental for a bankrupt litigants which might be since in a following ways,
1. Staff profession model: In this model, lawyers have been in use upon income only to yield authorised good to subordinate low income clients.
2. In a Judi caring model: in isolation lawyers as well as law firms have been paid to hoop cases though receiving fees from a bad clients.
3. The village authorised clinic: comprises non distinction clinics portion a sold village by a extended operation of authorised services.
4. Providing report sheets to a ubiquitous open upon a authorised good system.
5. Legal assist board: consisting of multiform lawyers allocated by supervision with bound income for advocating upon interest of bad clients.
6. NGOs shaped authorised assist system: NGOs might yield authorised assist by formulating recognition between a people as well as fighting in a probity upon interest of a bad clients. There have been a little NGOs i.e. BLUST, AIN O SALISH KENDRA, BNWLA, have been personification heading purpose in upon condition which authorised aid.
To safeguard authorised assist to a bad litigants a opposite countries of a universe have taken opposite stairs as well as models. In Bangladesh, sequence 33 of a formula of polite procedure1908, says which homeless might hospital any fit as a pauper. Rule 1 defines which a chairman is a homeless when he is not means to compensate a prescribed price or where no such price is prescribed, when he is not entitled to skill value 5 thousand taka alternative than his required wearing attire as well as a theme make a difference of a suit. This sustenance has no focus for a anachronism so an bid for upon condition which authorised assist to a bankrupt litigants was initial taken up by a supervision by a presentation antiquated 18january 1994 .under a presentation a authorised assist cabinet was shaped in each district. Subsequently by an additional presentation antiquated 19March 1997 supervision shaped a inhabitant authorised assist cabinet as well as additionally reconstituted district authorised assist committees. In a year 2000 authorised assist action has been enacted to put a authorised assist activities upon a organisation footing. On a clever research of a pronounced act, a little loopholes turn clear to us which have been as follows
1. No apart physique for receiving aqqlication.2.The members of a committees have been from top strata so they mostly destroy to comprehend a miseries of a penurious litigants.3.No arrangement for a members of a committees so they have been demure to do these activities. 4. The procession of deliberation a applications has turn an additional appurtenance of slow a suits.5.There is no burden of a members of a play as well as committees.6.The Act does not explain which for which cases authorised assist will be given. for these defects a bad contractor can not take a good of this act.
4.“It is difficult to judge the success of reforms in legal aid provision as we lack agreement on the aims and objectives of a legal aid system”. Discuss.
Legal aid helps with the costs of legal advice for people who can’t afford it. If anyone needs help with the costs of legal advice, he can apply for legal aid. Whether he will receive it depends on: the type of legal problem he has; his income (how much he earn) and how much capital (money, property, belongings) he has; whether there is a reasonable chance of winning his case and whether it is worth the time and money needed to win.
The legal aid scheme was set up after World War 2 by the Legal Aid and Advice Act 1949 in UK. The Legal Aid system was mainly introduced to help people who otherwise would not be able to afford it, to gain access the courts. It therefore enabled them to get a fair hearing and resolve legal problems.
Legal Aid is central to a society based on social justice. It is there to help everyone who really needs it Thus, the aim of the Legal Services Commission is to make quality legal aid accessible to everyone thereby ensuring effective delivery of justice and legal advice.
 History of the legal aid system, introduction of public funding, the Access to Justice Act 1999 and further reforms, Halsbury’s Laws of England (found in lexisnexis)
 The Legal Services Commission (LSC) works in partnership with solicitors and not-for-profit organisations to help more than 2 million people each year access legal advice, information and help (available online: http://www.legalservices.gov.uk/)
The aims and objectives of it are,
- help people to resolve their legal problems as soon as possible
- make it easier for people to get legal help especially if they belong to a disadvantaged group
- help people find alternatives to going to court
- Provide a high quality legal service.
4.1 HISTORY OF LEGAL AID SYSTEM
Prior to Access to Justice Act (AJA) – 1999 in UK, legal aid service was based upon demand laid system. The system became increasingly expensive to run while catering for fewer and fewer people. In 1950, 80% of the community was covered by legal aid provision. In 1998, the provision of legal aid had fallen to less than 40%.
From the mid 1980s, various Lord Chancellor tried to reform the system. Their task was made acute by the fact that expenditure on legal aid doubled to £1.4 billion over a four year period to 1995. A variety of reforms were attempted. Payment systems were changed, eligibility criteria revised and control shifted from the Law Society to the Legal Aid Board (Legal Aid Act 1998). In 1997, Labour government suggested that there might be a change in the direction of legal aid policy. A number of the changes have been made by the Children Act – 1989 and the Courts and Legal Services Act – 1990.
 Access to Justice Act 1999 Chapter 22, UK Parliament Acts (found in lexisnexis)
 The Reform of Legal Aid, Oxford Review Economic Policy (1994) 10(1): 51-67
 An Act to make new provision for the administration of, and to revise the law relating to, legal aid, advice and assistance, Legal Aid Act 1988 CHAPTER 34, UK Parliament Acts
 Conditional Fees was first introduced under section 58 of Courts and Legal Services Act1990,(availableonline:http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1990/41/section/58/enacted). This has been substituted by Section 27 of Access to Justice Act 1999.
In 1993, two significant changes were made. Standard fees for criminal legal aid in the Magistrates Courts were introduced and the practice of franchising was initiated. However, over the past seven years, the cost of civil and family legal aid had tripled which meant; the taxpayers were paying more and getting less in return. The problem was not simply the rising costs. As fewer people were becoming eligible for legal aid, it would appear that expenditure was not accompanied by an increase in value for money. Therefore, in 1996, Lord Mackay capped the legal aid budget.
4.2 CHANGES AND ADVANTAGES IN LEGAL AID SYSTEM
Following the Access to Justice (AJA) Act – 1999, there had been many changes in legal aid system in UK. Access to Justice (AJA) Act – 1999 established a Legal Service Commission (LSC) to maintain and develop the Community Legal Service (CLS), replaced of civil legal aid and Criminal Defense Service, replaced of criminal legal aid.
Section 5 of Access to Justice Act (AJA) – 1999 provides the budget for the Legal Service Commission (LSC) to maintain the Community Legal Service (CLS) fund. The Legal service Commission (LSC) funds these services by entering into contracts with solicitors by way of a franchise. The main aim for introducing the franchise scheme was to secure value for money. Therefore, if solicitors feel that there are few chances of success in a case, they are deterred from expending money given to them by the Legal Service Commission (LSC). Thus, this leads to effective fund management on the part of the solicitors.
 FOCUS: LEGAL SERVICES REFORMS – Legal services reforms – will the Lord Chancellor’s proposals empower the middle classes or ruin a system created in 1949 and envied by the world? – (1997) Law Society Gazette 29 Oct, 94 (17) (found in lexisnexis)
 The Legal Services Commission (LSC) works in partnership with solicitors and not-for-profit organisations to help more than 2 million people each year access legal advice, information and help (available online: http://www.legalservices.gov.uk/)
 The Community Legal Service (CLS) is a network of organisations that funds, provides and promotes civil legal services. The CLS helps with problems such as family breakdown, debt and housing (available online: http://www.legalservices.gov.uk/
 Access to Justice Act 1999 (1999 c 22), section 5(1) refers to funding of services, (p.6 of http://www.legalservices.gov.uk/docs/stat_and_guidance/AJA_R05.pdf)
 Conditional Fees was first introduced under section 58 of Courts and Legal Services Act 1990, (available online: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1990/41/section/58/enacted). This has been substituted by Section 27 of Access to Justice Act 1999.
Those who are ineligible for public funding, have to pay privately for legal services and this can be expensive. For this reason, the Lord Chancellor has developed the Conditional Fee Arrangement (CFA), which is a no win, no fee basis. It was introduced by the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990 and was extended recently by the Access to Justice Act (AJA) – 1999. However, it does not apply in criminal case, family case etc.
Under the Access to Justice Act (AJA) – 1999, not only the court can order a losing party to pay the costs and success fee to the winning party, but it is also possible, by virtue of Section 29, Access to Justice Act (AJA) – 1999, to ensure against losing a case, which if won, the court may order the losing party to pay the cost of the insurance premiums.
The Criminal Defense Service (CDS) was established under Section 12 Access to Justice Act (AJA) – 1999 for the purpose of securing those individuals who are involved in criminal investigations or criminal proceedings. They have access to ‘such advice, assistance and representation as the interests of justice require’. It is funded in a similar way as Community Legal Service (CLS), by the issue of franchise contracts, grants or loans or through the establishing and maintaining of advice and assistance bodies. Moreover, a duty solicitor scheme, which is free, is available to those people who are arrested and held in custody at a police station.
4.3 LIMITATIONS OF ACCESS TO JUSTICE ACT (AJA) – 1999
However, despite the above, the legal aid service is still not very effective. There are lack of commitment and poor communication from the lawyers. Community centers and Law centers are more effective in providing help and assistance. There are lack of advisers in areas like social security, housing, disability discrimination, employment and immigration. There is a distinct problem of ‘Access to Justice’ in certain where there are no solicitors who do publicly-funded work. Even, those solicitors who do publicly-funded work cut back on the number of cases they take on due to low rates of pay. Beside, the statutory charge may mean that a claimant may have nothing left even though he/she has won the case.
 Access to Justice Act 1999 (1999 c 22) section 29 refers to Recovery of insurance premiumsbywayofcosts(p.23ofhttp://www.legalservices.gov.uk/docs/stat_and_guidance/AJA_R05.pdf)
 The Criminal Defence Service (CDS) guarantees that people under police investigation or facing criminal charges get legal advice and representation (available online: http://www.legalservices.gov.uk)
 Access to Justice Act 1999 (1999 c 22) section 12(1) Criminal Defence Service (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1999/22/section/12)
4.4 CARTER REVIEW
In 2006, Lord Carter, in his review, drew attention to the need to continue reforming legal aid. The review was concerned with the design of an efficient procurement system that also contained quality guarantees. Thus, it was based on the notion of an open and responsive market. The review argued that cost increases because of systematic weakness in the way legal aid services are procured and therefore, inefficiencies increases in the way the services are delivered. The Carter review recommended that fees should be paid on a fixed or graduated scale. However, fixed fees will impact negatively on advice, particularly in more complex cases. This will eventually result into work being done by para-legals and less qualified advice workers. Some research available to Carter Review suggested that whereas small firms could provide criminal legal aid in an efficient manner, larger firms were not able to do the same. This would suggest that further research would be required on the impact of reform as it might drive out of the market those very firms that were best suited to provide value for money in provision of legal service.
4.5 LEGAL AID SYSTEM IN BANGLADESH
In an underdeveloped country, majority of the population are poor and illiterate which makes legal aid a necessity to uphold human rights and equality. The Government took formal initiative for enacting legal aid laws only in 1994. However, in 1996, the resolution of 1994 was repealed because it was found that only handful of litigants actually received legal aid from these governmental initiatives. It was in 2000 when the Government in assurance of financial cooperation by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) made an imitative to provide legal aid to indigent litigants. The Government passed the Aingoto Sohoyota Prodan Ain 2000 (Act No. VI of 2000) which provides legal mechanism and access to legal aid throughout the country. The main aim of enacting the Act is to provide legal aid to the people who are unable to get the justice due to financial crisis or due to different socio-economic reasons.
The NGOs has played a crucial role in providing legal aid support to the aggrieved in Bangladesh.
 Lord Carter of Coles, Legal Aid: A market-based approach to reform, Lord Carter’s Review of Legal Aid Procurement, July 2006 (available online: http://www. legalaidprocurementreview.gov.uk/publications.htm)
 Also known as Legal Aid Act 2000 (available online: http://bdlaws.minlaw.gov.bd/bangla_pdf_part.php?id=834)
 See, ‘The Legal system in Bangladesh’ by Abdul Halim and N.E Siddiki ,page 357
Among these NGOs, Ain o Sailish Kendra (ASK), Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST), Madaripur Legal Aid Association (MLAA) and Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association (BNWLA) are playing leading role in providing legal aid. Despite of the access to legal aid in Bangladesh, the Aingoto Sohoyota Prodan Ain 2000 has some flaws. They are,
- The Act does not specify cases for which legal aid can be provided.
- The process of consideration of application can be identified as a source of delay.
- In comparison with the number of legal aid seekers, the number of meetings held to consider these application falls short of requirement.
- The accountability of members of the Board and Committee are not ensured in the Act.
- The procedure of the selection of the application is not clear in this Act.
- In the Upazilla and Union committees, the inclusion of Chairman and
14 other members makes the system more complex.
- By section 26 of this Act, the govt. repealed the previous Legal Aid Committee formed under the Resolution 74-Law/1997 and seized all funds of that Committee but the fate of the applications and cases pending in the Courts have not been clarified.
 Ain o Salish Kendro (ASK), is a legal aid and human rights resource centre. It provides free legal aid to the poor- women, workers and child workers. It has a special consultative status with UNECOSOC.
 BLAST’s mission is to make the legal system accessible to the poor and the marginalized. BLAST envisions a society based on the rule of law in which every individual particularly the poor, the marginalized and excluded, in particular women, as well as children, peoples with disabilities, adivasis, and dalits have access to justice and their human rights are respected and protected.
 A small group of dedicated volunteers & social workers, initially working in Madaripur, took initiative to offer free legal assistance to the formal judicial systems. Their efforts proved successful that inspired the group to formally establish the Madaripur Legal Aid Association (MLAA) in March 1978.
 The programs and service provisions of BNWLA are particularly targeted at the poorest and most disadvantaged areas of the country where comprehensive legal service delivery program along with others preventive and protective supports in establishing human rights and resisting violence against woman and child is most needed.
 Aingoto Sohoyota Prodan Ain 2000 (The Legal Aid Act 2000), Section 26: Rohitokoron o Hefajot, sub-section 2B (available online: http://bdlaws.minlaw.gov.bd/bangla_pdf_part.php?id=834)
NGOs as an organization with expertise in the delivery of legal services to the poor are in good position to give direction to the government’s effort. Therefore, the NGOs can play a proactive role in implementing the legal aid programme by,
- Conducting as survey to assess and identity the specific areas of human right violation.
- Make the government answerable to dire situation of poor who cannot access the law.
- Bringing into notice the gap between the inadequacies of law and practice of the government legal aid and persuading the government to take remedial measures.
- Putting pressure on government by public interest litigation where government fails to respond to the need of the poor for legal aid.
- Making the poor aware of their rights which the law of the land guarantees.
- Promoting social dialogues and literacy programme to uphold the importance of legal aid.
- Assisting government programme by to providing expertise on concerned issues.
Implementation of legal aid act in both developed and underdeveloped countries indicates government’s willingness to serve the poor. However, the government must also ensure that the act is regularly reviewed to address loopholes. The Government should follow a strategy of continuous improvement. In order to judge the success of reforms in legal aid provision, it is necessary to first establish a set of criteria against which it will be evaluated. These criteria should be set by the Government officials, Judges, and Legal Aid experts. Few criteria that could be used to evaluate the system are given below.
- Administrative efficiency with focus on the procedural aspects of legal aid applications.
- Easy access to the courts irrespective of claimant’s or defendant’s financial means.
- Initiative to create awareness in rural areas, especially in under-developed countries.
- Effect of legal aid on tax payers.
It is also essential to have accessible legal aid services beyond the government organizations. An active partnership between and NGO and a government agency can play a very significant role in social service delivery. They compensate for each other’s weaknesses and deficiencies. However, the government has to balance the needs for legal aid with the pressuring needs of other social services such as healthcare and education.
§ Access To Justice & Legal Aid
Avaiable online: www. blast .org. bd /index. phy? option= com _content & view
§ Access to Justice Act (AJA) 1999,
Available online: http://www.legalservices.gov.uk/docs/stat_and_guidance/AJA_R05.pdf
§ Aingoto Sohoyota Prodan Ain 2000
Available online: http://bdlaws.minlaw.gov.bd/bangla_pdf_part.php?id=834
§ Carter, L. (2006). ‘Legal Aid: A market-based approach to reform’ in Lord Carter’s Review of Legal Aid Procurement, House of Lords.
Available online: http://www.legalaidprocurementreview.gov.uk/publications.htm
§ The Labour Party Manifesto (2005), Backing the victim. Available online: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/13_04_05_labour_manifesto.pdf
§ Courts and Legal Services Act 1990 c.41 Part III Section 58, ‘Conditional fee Agreements’, The National Archives London.
Available online: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1990/41/section/58/enacted
§ Legal Aid Review (2009). ‘Improving the Legal Aid System: A public discussion paper’, Ministry of Justice, New Zealand
§ Islam, M. S. (2009). ‘Access to Justice through Legal Aid’, Department of law, Southern University Bangladesh, Article published in http://www.articlesbase.com/law-articles/access-to-justice-through-legal-aid-1431939.html
§ Husain, S. J. R. M. (2005). ‘Judicial Reforms And Legal Aid Service: Experience In Bangladesh’ Presented during the International Conference and Showcase on Judicial Reforms held at the Shangri-la Hotel, Makati City, Philippines on 28-30 November 2005.